Claimants who are entitled to new style employment and support allowance (ESA) are being pushed into claiming universal credit (UC) instead, even though they may be much worse off as a result, due to the inflexibility of the claims system and the poor training given to DWP staff.
Welfare rights workers are reporting huge problems with claiming new style ESA, which is available to some claimants who have paid sufficient national insurance contributions.
Claimants phoning the UC claim line in Full Service areas discover that every single option relates to UC.
Even if you choose ‘Any other queries’ from every option, you are likely to be put through to a DWP call handler who knows nothing about how to claim new style ESA.
One advisor said that the call handler stated that they had specific guidance about new style ESA but, when he consulted it, the guidance told staff to contact his team and they would deal with it.
After getting further advice the call handler then explained that claims for new style ESA are completely separate from UC, even though claimants must use the UC line to make their claim.
The call handler then said he could either email or post out a form for making the claim and said that he would raise the problem as a training issue as his colleagues probably didn’t know any more than he did.
Undoubtedly a lot of people will give up and simply make a claim for UC instead when faced with a bureaucratic brick wall like this.
But new style ESA is potentially a better benefit for many people to claim, not least because:
it isn’t affected by your savings;
it isn’t affected by your partner’s earnings;
it is paid fortnightly, not monthly.
Some claimants are eligible for both new style ESA and a top-up of UC.
Anyone trying to make a claim for new style ESA is advised to be very persistent in insisting that they are claiming this benefit rather than UC, no matter how hard call handlers try to persuade you otherwise.